September 10, 2015
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TALLAHASSEE –The Florida Department of Corrections today highlighted the completion of a full report by the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA) on the results of their independent audit of the Department’s use of force policies and procedures. ASCA reported that at all levels of the agency, it is readily apparent that a thorough review of the use of force policy is welcomed and there exists impressive commitment to improve the policy and practice of using force legally and appropriately.
Secretary Julie Jones said, “I would like to thank the Association of State Correctional Administrators for completing this audit on behalf of the Florida Department of Corrections. The information provided in this review reflects the Department’s ongoing efforts to increase accountability and safety within our institutions and our goal of becoming a national leader in correctional policy. I look forward to implementing the recommendations provided in this review and further improving and strengthening the operations of this department.”
The audit took place at Columbia, Dade, Martin, Santa Rosa, Suwannee and Union Correctional Institutions. This use of force audit was requested by DOC in 2014 and is separate from the audit ordered by the Governor in Executive Order 15-134 in July. Auditors selected each facility based on criteria such as the number and nature of use of force incidents, inmate population size, geographical location and predominant custody level. During the review, a team of auditors focused on the following five key areas: use of force policy, facility use of force procedures, facility culture, staffing and security operations.
To thoroughly evaluate each area, auditors posed a series of questions. These questions and the relevant findings are detailed below. To view the audit in its entirety, please click HERE.
The applicable redactions to the audit include:
Information, which if released, would jeopardize a person’s safety. § 945.10(1)(e), F.S.
Records, information, photographs, audio and visual presentations, schematic diagrams, surveys, recommendations, or consultations or portions thereof relating directly to the physical security of an institution or revealing security systems of an institution. §§ 119.071(3) and 281.301, F.S.
Threat assessments conducted by the department, threat response plans, emergency evacuation plans, sheltering arrangements or manuals for security personnel, emergency equipment, or security training. § 119.071(3)(a), F.S.
Information revealing surveillance techniques, procedures or personnel § 119.071(2)(d), F.S.
USE OF FORCE POLICY
Question: Is the current use of force policy consistent with the best practices of other state correctional agencies?
Finding: Following their review, the team concluded that the current use of force policy is consistent overall with widely accepted practices of adult correctional agencies nationwide. Auditors recommended that the Department revise several elements of our use of force procedure to further enhance the integrity of the current policy. The Department is currently revising our procedure to meet the recommendations.
FACILITY USE OF FORCE PROCEDURES
Question: Are procedures in line with current governing policies, are those policies effective, and is staff following the policies?
Finding: The ASCA team found no systemic or widespread non-compliance in following the Department’s use of force policy. Following an extensive review of the relevant procedures, auditors concluded that the Department’s procedures are in line with current controlling policies and that the policies are effective and meet national standards. The team also found that all planned use of force events at the facilities were well documented from start to finish.
Question: What are the formal and informal cultural values, beliefs and norms of the staff at the facilities selected for review, and are those values, beliefs and norms in concert with the agency’s mission and goals?
Finding: The team found no systemic negative subcultures in any of the inspected facilities. Following their review, the team was confident that the agency’s push to positively change the prevailing culture within the facilities is having the desired results. Auditors reported that every employee interviewed knew about the mandate from the Central Office to only utilize the least amount of force required to gain control of a situation and only when other, non-physical interventional methods have failed. The majority of employees interviewed agreed with the mandate and were in full support of the initiative.
Question: Are staffing levels, staff accountability and staff training adequate to meet the agency’s primary mission of maintaining a safe and secure environment for both staff and inmates?
Finding: Following their review, the team concluded that both uniformed and non-uniformed staffing positions at the inspected facilities appear to be less than the team felt was appropriate. The Department is taking an aggressive approach to filling all our vacancies by recruiting new members to ensure that our facilities are staffed appropriately. To date, we have observed a net gain of more than 800 correctional officers and nearly 600 non-certified staff, statewide. We are confident that we are well on our way to changing this deficiency in our agency. The team also evaluated staff accountability which they determined to be appropriate and satisfactory.
The Department is currently working to enhance training opportunities for staff as recommended.
Question: Do staff and inmate supervision, disciplinary and grievance procedures, searches and contraband control, video surveillance, inmate movement, plant maintenance, key and tool control and any other operational areas meet the standards for adequacy in a state correctional agency?
Finding: Following their review, the team concluded that:
As Florida's largest state agency, the Department of Corrections employs more than 23,000 members statewide, incarcerates more than 100,000 inmates and supervises nearly 140,000 offenders in the community.